The Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion
On a plastic chair in a parking lot in Ramallah sits a young man writing a novel, reflecting on his life: working in a dance club on the Israeli side of the border, scratching his father’s amputated leg, dreaming nightly of a haunting scorpion, witnessing the powerful aura of his mountain-lodging aunt. His work in progress is a meditation on absence, loss, and emptiness. He poses deep questions: What does it mean to exist? How can you confirm the existence of a place, a person, a limb? How do we engage with what is no longer there? Absurd at times, raw at others, The Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion explores Palestinian identity through Akram Musallam’s extended metaphors in the hope of transcending the loss of territory and erasure of history.
‘Set in Palestine between the two Intifadas,The Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion is a multi-dimensional novel that is difficult to summarize. It attests to its writer Akram Musallam’s narrative style characterized by being brief but dense and shows his skilful play with language by richly using repetition, irony, and dark humour . . . The variety of stories in The Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion provides the author with a welcome foundation to comment on some key political and historical incidents in Palestine, and to interrogate writing’s place and importance in a setting under occupation. However, he keeps the commentaries brief but skilfully loaded with meaning. He leaves the interrogations about writing like its ability to fill the emptiness unanswered but calling for more reflection. With this novel, translated brilliantly by Sawad Hussain, Akram Musallam shows his equal command of both language and subject.’—Saliha Haddad, The New Arab
‘Akram Musallam’s novel, The Dance of the Deep-Blue Scorpion . . . is a meditation on loss, absence, and memory. . . Through an intricately woven and multi-layered narrative, where content and form are closely interconnected in a spiraling structure, Musallam asks . . . questions without offering any answers. If anything, by the end of the book we are thrown right back to the beginning by the force of its spiraling form and, like the characters of the stories told by the narrator, are left in desperate search to fill that emptiness left by loss . . . Sawad Hussain’s translation of the novel is excellent; by the middle of the book the reader almost forgets she is reading a translated work.’—Khulud Khamis, The Markaz Review
‘Palestinian novels are often, not surprisingly, about the horrors of the Israeli occupation. Musallam is well aware of these but he wants to focus on his own personal situation and though he was part of the intifada, he feels loss, emptiness, nothingness and the disappearance of his culture as much if not more than the horrors of the occupation, making this a highly original Palestinian novel.’—The Modern Novel
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